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Every year sailors E-5 to E-7 juggle work and deployment schedules to attend leadership classes that must be taken to be eligible for promotion.

In the past few weeks, the availability of these courses has been called into question. Whether or not a problem exists may depend on to whom you speak.

Petty Officer 1st Class Milton Styron, the command career counselor aboard USS Lassen in Yokosuka, Japan, said for the most part, his ship can get sailors into the courses they need.

But, he said he has seen people fall through the cracks.

“I once saw a chief petty officer’s package for senior chief petty officer get rejected because he did not have his leadership courses complete,” Styron said, adding that he thought more leadership classes should be offered. “It can be a problem.”

A recent Navy Times article lambasted Navy leadership for allegedly failing to provide adequate opportunity for 10,000 active-duty and Reserve sailors to take the courses.

But according to the Center for Naval Leadership’s Yokosuka’s Senior Chief Petty Officer Shellinda Miller, there is no shortage of classes or seats.

In her position as the site lead, Miller manages the budget, training, curriculum, delivery, scheduling and personnel issues for the Pacific’s leadership training and manages eight mobile training teams for Japan, South Korea, Guam and Diego Garcia.

“We’ve had 50,000 sailors attend leadership training in the last eight months,” Miller said.

Miller said the schedule is developed by taking a “snapshot” of the number of sailors in the Navy broken down by pay grade. “We can also see who has already taken what courses,” Miller added.

The schedule is further broken down geographically by examining how many sailors in what pay grades are stationed in each area. Depending on who needs what, the number of courses may be adjusted.

“In some areas, like Iwakuni, we have many more people needing the Work Center Supervisor Course than the other courses, so we schedule more,” Miller said.

But some say course availability isn’t the problem.

Petty Officer 1st Class Joe Green, who works at the Center for Security Forces, Learning Site Yokosuka, said he is trying to help someone with a leadership continuum problem that has him scratching his head.

Green is trying to help a sailor at his command become eligible for this month’s E-6 exam.

However, that sailor may not be able to test “because he hasn’t attended the LPO course,” Green said. “The strange thing is that this guy was apparently allowed to take the test last cycle at his last command.

“It’s frustrating for me because we can get him into the next class,” Green said. “But the advancement tests are given in September and the leadership class (is) in October. I just don’t understand how this could have happened.”

Miller said there shouldn’t be any confusion.

“I think the leadership requirements are very clear,” Miller said, explaining that all Navy administrative messages that pertain to the leadership continuum can be accessed on the Internet at the Navy Knowledge Online Web site.

What about classes on ships?

The Center for Naval Learning teaches week-long leadership classes at 20 learning sites world wide, and deploys mobile training teams to teach the courses elsewhere, according to Navy spokesman Capt. Jack Hanzlik.

Moreover, Hanzlik said the Navy is evaluating the prospect of conducting courses underway, but added that the shipboard learning environment may compromise the overall learning experience.

A “shipboard environment is not as optimal as ashore because of the unique challenges of operating at sea and people needing to man their workstations,” Hanzlik said in an e-mail response to Stars and Stripes.

Hanzlik said that a classroom environment increases diversity and encourages students to be more “frank and willing to share their honest experiences.”

The Navy doesn’t currently offer online training as an alternative, Hanzlik said, because “face-to-face interaction between students and student/instructor is critical.”

“An online presentation just doesn’t lend itself to a very effective delivery,” Hanzlik said. “But, we continue to investigate alternative methodologies for sailor development, and we haven’t closed the door on anything.”

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